1881 Chong Tian Hotel

Special thanks to Alice Seah for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

Standing prominently along Jalan Pintal Tali is 1881 Chong Tian Hotel (1881中天酒店), a prestigious hotel-restaurant occupying an imposing block of colonial-era building.
Formerly a merchant hotel during the British colonial days, this century-old building was later infamously made as a brothel. The building subsequently succumbed to disrepair and remained abandoned for many decades.

It was only several years ago when this historical building was given a second lease of life. Mr. Seah, who owns several real estate properties in this city district, decided to restore this building to its former grandeur.
Today's 1881 Chong Tian Hotel is three storeys in height and spans across five contiguous shop lots. The restaurant and kitchen are located at the ground floor, while upper floors house the hotel rooms.
With a price tag of RM15 million and 7 years in the making, this formerly dilapidated building underwent complete makeover to the prestige it enjoys today. To ensure that restoration is carried out as authentic as possible, craftsmen and building materials were specially brought in from China.

1881 Chong Tian Hotel boasts 11 luxurious rooms. Each room has been uniquely designed and is meticulously crafted with fine furniture pieces.
To give the nostalgic feel of a lavish guest house during the dynastic China, no expense was spared even at the welcoming area. The hallway is dotted with countless pieces of fine antiques, prized artwork, vintage furniture and elegant tapestry.
Given the painstaking effort in the collecting so many pieces of cultural ornaments, it is befitting that 1881 Chong Tian Hotel won the "Most Cultural Hotel in Asia Pacific" in 2013.
As for the restaurant, the dining hall used to be split into halves, each catering to Chinese and Western delicacies respectively. However, the Western menu has been discontinued in favor of focusing on Chinese cuisine.
The food menu is primarily presented in à la carte manner. For the convenience of guests, a number of chef-recommended course meals are also available. Tonight's dinner is a 5-dish course meal for 4 persons.
First, we are treated with a dish of Thai-Style Steamed Red Snapper (泰式蒸红狮). The fish is gently steamed with Thai-style herbs, yielding a succulent flavor which is mildly spicy but pleasantly tangy. I also like the liberal use of garlic to bring out the delectable taste of the fish. On the other hand, the flesh is intertwined with small bones, so it may not be the best choice for small children.
The next dish still puts us in the seafood department: King Prawns With Mala Sauce (麻辣鲜明虾). Four large pieces of fresh prawns are stir-fried with a thick coating of spicy mala sauce (麻辣酱), then served piping hot right out from the wok. I find that the sweet prawn flesh blends well with the savory-spicy sauce.
Our next dish is one specially catered for the heavens: Lemongrass Braised Pork Belly (香茅爆花肉). I do not even know how to start explaining because every aspect of the pork is simply perfect: tenderness, flavor, fragrance and "wok hei" (镬气). To put this more meaningfully, the pork is irresistible from the very first bite!
Moving on, the Fried Egg With Bitter Gourd (香滑蛋凉瓜) is an interesting pairing of eggs with vegetables. Having an affinity for bitter gourd myself, this dish strikes a chord with my palate. Fret not, the bitter gourd is not as bitter as it seems. If anything, the bitter gourd primarily serves to provide some degree of sweetness.
The fifth dish for tonight's dinner is Chinese Cabbage With Garlic Slices (蒜片奶白菜). This leafy vegetable with thick stems is gently braised in light oil to maintain its juiciness. Once again, garlic is used to enhance overall aroma and flavor.
This course meal includes a platter of fruits for dessert. Slices of papaya, watermelon and honeydew serve to conclude our hearty meal tonight. The fruits are kept chilled with ice.
How much do you think that tonight's meal costs? This set of 5 dishes plus dessert and rice only costs RM98.00. Considering the exquisite dining atmosphere and scrumptious flavor of most dishes, I find this meal surprisingly affordable. Do check it out as you are likely to pay the same for inferior-quality food at most restaurants.
Name: 1881 Chong Tian Hotel
Address: 38, Jalan Pintal Tali, 10100 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-263-1881
Business hours: 11:00am-2:30pm, 6:00pm-10:00pm
Website: http://www.1881chongtian.com
Coordinates: 5.41780 N, 100.33481 E
Directions: From Lebuh Chulia, turn into the one-way Jalan Pintal Tali. 1881 Chong Tian Hotel is a 3-storey building on the right, almost before the intersection of Jalan Pintal Tali and Lebuh Campbell. Street parking is the only viable option at this part of town, and may be in short supply at certain hours. Valet parking service is provided by the hotel.

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